Background: Anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) encephalitis is a form of autoimmune encephalitis. Due to the variability of the initial symptoms, anti-NMDAR encephalitis is not only underdiagnosed but also can be misdiagnosed as viral encephalitis or other pathologies. The origin of this disease is often paraneoplastic. Anti-NMDAR encephalitis preferentially affects children and young adults, and it has a male/female ratio of 1/4. In case of clinical suspicion, electroencephalogram and brain magnetic resonance imaging are useful, but lumbar puncture for cerebrospinal fluid analysis is used to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment for this disease includes immunosuppression and tumour resection when indicated.
Case presentation: We report the case of a 24-year-old female admitted to the emergency room following the onset of acute confusion. Due to the rapid deterioration of consciousness, swallowing disorders, respiratory failure and severe bradycardia the patient was intubated. On day 23 after presentation, brain magnetic resonance suggested autoimmune limbic encephalitis. Cerebrospinal fluid results were positive for anti-NMDA antibodies. After IV methylprednisolone and plasmapheresis and a second line therapy with corticosteroid and mycophenolic acid, the patient’s clinical condition gradually improved.
Conclusions: Anti-NMDAR encephalitis typically occurs in young patients with no history of acute psychiatric symptoms. The possibility of this pathology should be taken into account before diagnosing a patient with a psychiatric illness.